The Call of Jeremiah

Written by Bayo Ogungbade, Associate Pastor of Adult Discipleship at Reveille United Methodist Church, Richmond, VA

Trees with light coming through. A Voice in the Wilderness

Jeremiah 1:4-10        

“God, I am too young! There’s no way I can pray in front of other people! I’m too anxious to preach in the pulpit! I’ve never done any of these things in my entire life! Robes make me feel like an ancient relic! Organ music puts me to sleep! There’s no way that God is calling someone like ME to serve in the church!” As I read this Scripture passage, I’m reminded of the many reservations I had when I first experienced a sense of call to ministry as an 18 year old college student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). I couldn’t help but to find ways to disqualify myself before I even got started.

When I reminisce on my relationship with church and God in my early childhood, I’m very hard pressed to find any signs that God was leading me towards a life of vocational ministry. I didn’t attend Sunday School at my local church. I was not well versed in Scripture outside of Psalm 23, which my loving mother taught me to say with her before I went to bed at night. I couldn’t stand dressing up in a suit and tie on Sunday mornings when my family went to church. I went to youth group for every other reason EXCEPT growing in my relationship with God. In short, before I knew what God had planned for me, I already felt that I knew that church work wasn’t in my future. Imagine my surprise when after nearly flunking out of VCU while studying pre-med, God decides to invite ME to serve God’s Kingdom as a pastor. I was filled with so much dread. So much fear. So much angst. I remember some of my back-and-forths with God went something like – “God, I’m 18 years old! I’m too young! I’m in the prime of my life! You’re telling me that instead of spending my weekends partying and living it up with my friends, You want me to sacrifice them and do all the things I hate on Sunday morning?” To say that I was stressed out of my mind is an understatement. I truly felt so unqualified for the work that I felt God was calling me to do.

 However at the same time, I was also filled with this indescribable sense of excitement that I couldn’t explain. I couldn’t help but feel excitement and anticipation about what God wanted to use me to do. I found myself intrigued and curious and in addition to my excitement, I also felt, for the first time in my life, a sense of calm that all things were going to work themselves out and all I had to do was keep moving forward. Unbeknownst to me, I believe that this was God’s way of teaching me to see that no matter what I may have thought about myself, my disqualifications, and my fears, God knew why I was called for this work. I may have been worried about being too young, but God said that I was right on time. I may not have known how to pray or preach in front of others, but God only told me to show up and I would be provided with the words to say. God had already known me in the womb. God had already set me apart. Now, all I had to do was go where God called me to go and to say what God commanded me to. Most importantly, even in light of my frustrations and fears, God told me to not be afraid. Because God would be with me.

In this Lenten season, I invite you to reflect on times in your life where you felt disqualified to do what you believe God was calling you to do. It’s okay to be honest – we’ve all had those times. I’ve only named one of the many times that I’ve had those struggles. It’s okay to feel like you’re in the wilderness. Hear the good news – no matter what you believe you can or can’t do, God knows who you are. God knew you in the womb. God knew you before you were born. God knows what you’ll grow up to do. Continue to build and plant, my friends. God is with you. God has ALWAYS been with you. God will ALWAYS be with you.

A Voice in the Wilderness: Lent 2024

Find all entries from A Voice in the Wilderness online here: